FOREWORD

Three hours of information just on Beginners Home Automation! 

This was a fun series for me, and I enjoyed bringing you all of these items.  Each of the companies along the way were invaluable to both the learning and debugging processes, but also in providing many items for us to work with.

Below is the set of notes that I used to create the entire series.  I present it here with flaws and mistakes.  It evolved a number of times, but perhaps you’ll also gain an insight as to how I deliver my show.  It’s not word for word, and I stumble here and there, and I take detours from my notes as well, at times.  A few times, I had less notes, and winged some more, as you can see, and other times, I followed so much very closely.

Beginners Home Automation Series

by Benjamin Rockwell | Computer Talk Radio

Reminder (given each week)

Edited out here, but mentioned many times throughout the broadcast series, in various forms:  This is not our other show item, Marty’s 40 Year House project. His setup is a custom cybernetic system driven house on overdrive, versus what is available for the home in do-it-yourself off-the-shelf at your local home improvement store, or from Amazon.

 

Introduction

  • About 17 years ago, my grandparents passed away within just a short time of each other.
  • In their passing, they left behind a home that needed to look like it was lived in, at least nominally, to prevent any breakins. That meant that I had to automate some lighting.
  • As a nerd, you know that I didn’t do this with just a simple timer and a few things… I set this up to be just activated enough to scare off anyone meaning to do harm. $200 or so, and an old laptop, and I was set to go with something called X-10.
  • X-10 is still around, but it’s laughable compared to what’s available now.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a regular feature that we’ve had here on the show for about 3 or 4 years, and it’s received a lot of attention across the country.
  • Marty Winston’s 40 Year House project is on a different level than anyone is likely to do today in one plan. He’s got a lot of ideas, and everything that I’m going to present in this new series on Home Automation is my own take on just a few things that are part of that 40 Year House.
  • Marty brings us a number of other things beyond automation, like new and innovative plans for energy savings, for insulation, for build quality, design, and more. It’s not quite that Disneyland home of the future from years ago, but it’s a step towards that dream.
  • Before I step into my own realm, I want to note that Marty’s plans, admittedly, are to go cloud free, keep cameras outside of the home, be independent, and involve a lot more than the home tinkerer is ready for.
  • What are my plans? Well, here we go…  We’re bringing you ideas that are closer to what you are experiencing with home automation alone.
  • So, how did I get here? Well, my wife saw how her sister had setup Alexa to turn on and off a couple of lights in the home.  I think it was three.  And one of them could turn a color.
  • I then found that Alexa is reported to be in 25% of homes, with 75 million devices across the country. This is all since 2015 when the first Amazon Echo’s came out.  Most owners have more than one device, and many people are outfitting their homes.
  • That’s an amazing sets of numbers, and based upon questions from listeners, and this obsession with Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s SmartThings, and other devices from other manufacturers.
  • I’m going to take you down a road that will cover more than you imagined. This is a project in progress, and my wife and I still haven’t installed everything, but we’ve got a dozen switch locations, a dozen various lamps and other locations, a couple of hubs, and some Amazon Echo’s.  Wait, there’s more, however…  Motion sensors, moisture sensors, switches to tell if doors are open or closed, and cameras.  It’s a big project, and we’ll give you our experience.
  • Let me give you a run down of what we’ll have in the coming weeks… so you can check these out.
  • LIST THE TABLE OF CONTENTS AT THIS TIME  (Order, contents, and more were later changed, so this wasn’t fully accurate at time of recording)
  • Come back each week and find out more about this home automation project, some of the things we discovered, some of the things we didn’t want to discover, and more. 

VOICE CONTROL AND COMPLICATIONS

  • It’s been a long time in coming, with the voice commands to our home as we enter… Lights!
  • It’s the stuff of science fiction books since the 50’s and 60’s. It was a neat feature built into a fake robot that I received as a Christmas present in the mid-80’s, responding to certain quirks in how we say the various commands. 
  • Voice recognition arrived in a more mature form in recent years, and today we say things like Hey Siri, what time is it? OK Google, how do I get home?  Cortana, why did they discontinue the Windows Phone?
  • There are other options, like HomeKit, or various televisions, like Samsung that will provide the ability to voice command, but none match up to Alexa.
  • If you’re willing to endure the intrusion, the spying on your every word, it’s the way to go.
  • And why would we want to give into this? It’s simply the easiest interface available.  We can work with ideas like pushing buttons, or pushing buttons on our smartphones, but it’s not elegant to show off control without the dream associated of calling out the commands.
  • The reality is that if we want voice control, we have to have a system that is always listening for the commands, intelligent enough to parse standard discussions from those commands, and it must translate those commands as quickly as possible. I found only one system that would do that without cloud, but it was very expensive.  We’ll talk about that next week, however.
  • It is only natural that we should be able to make these statements, and devices respond.
  • Alexa, lights! But it doesn’t quite work like that.  It can, and I’ll get into that in a few minutes.
  • Alexa, let there be light! No, that’s a little too close to blasphemy… 
  • Alexa, turn on the downstairs lights! It likes that specificity that is so crucial until the intelligence that’s provided gets a little bit more of an IQ boost.  It’s a voice command, but without telling it more, it’s going to fall flat.  Garbage in, garbage out is something that we’ve said for ages about computers, and this is no different.
  • A simple Amazon Echo Dot connected to your system will work. Even better, the more expensive Amazon Echo Plus includes a smart hub. 
  • Before you rush out and decide on the hub, however, you’ll want to hear next weeks show on hubs. These are both fine, but Amazon works using the Zigbee protocol, which means that the overall physical control only handles about half the items on the market.
  • Still, Amazon provides the best connection in, unless you happen to be tied into iPhones throughout your own home, and want to say Hey Siri all of the time.
  • The Alexa app however, is available for both Android and iPhone, and while you have to open the app first, it’s still an option if you’re really tied into using the phone.
  • So, how did I tackle that issue with the lights? Well, I did find that I could associate a routine to do exactly as I command.  Routines under Alexa, or other devices with different similar titles, are what we might refer to as Macros, or a series of commands that originate from one command.
  • For instance, I can say “Alexa lights!” and it will no longer just question me, but go directly to the routine called lights, and turns on a selected series of lights or scenes. I have a similar routine for “Alexa goodnight” where it turns on the patio light, turns off the other lights in the home, and it tells my thermostat that I’m headed under the covers.
  • You can set your own set of scenes, and we’ll discuss more of the scene options later in this series, including some options where some Innovelli brand switches react to multiple taps.

ZIGBEE VS ZWAVE VS OTHER PROTOCOLS

  • Today, I’m covering the two protocols of choice, ZigBee and Z-wave.
  • Before I start, let’s go back to the original introduction
  • About 17 years ago, my grandparents passed away within just a short time of each other.
  • In their passing, they left behind a home that needed to look like it was lived in, at least nominally, to prevent any breakins. That meant that I had to automate some lighting.
  • As a nerd, you know that I didn’t do this with just a simple timer and a few things… I set this up to be just activated enough to scare off anyone meaning to do harm. $200 or so, and an old laptop, and I was set to go with something called X-10. 
  • Now, this standard was developed in the 1970’s, and was in usage by places like Radio Shack, and eventually promoted by the website X10.com. It’s still available, but the pricing has actually increased to be competitive with the current wave.  Don’t be fooled, it’s about as primitive as it gets, with signal travelling across your home powerlines, but problems abound at the breakers.
  • Further, there are items like Insteon, Universal Powerline Bus, KNX, and communication standards that can transmit the information, but aren’t made for it… Bluetooth, Near Field Communications (NFC), and even just standard Wifi.
  • Apple HomeKit is out there, but it’s also a fledgling standard which continues to struggle, and lacks support by many of the other companies. If you’re always going to be an Apple household, and you’re accepting of the few devices available, it’s barely acceptable. 
  • Today there are two major smarthome standards, ZigBee, and Z-wave, and neither is directly compatible with the other.
  • So, we have to choose between the two major protocols of today, ZigBee or Z-Wave.
  • Both are AES128 encrypted and secured mesh networks, but then you have to start comparing other notes about them. The mesh network is like a grid of paths, so the signal always arrives.
  • Zigbee travels 10 to 20 meters, allows 65000 devices, but only allows 4 hops from the control to the device. Z-Wave travels 100 meters, allows 232 devices and unlimited hops.  In reality, however, neither sets of figures makes sense to limit… who is going to have 200 devices?
  • Z-Wave is interoperable, because to gain the logo approval, you have to meet the codes to connect. With over 2500 different device options, the logo program appears to work.
  • ZigBee is an open protocol, but that’s led to some arguments over standards, some connectivity and compatibility problems and more.
  • ZigBee is a faster protocol, but also rides on the same frequency range as Wifi. Z-Wave is slower, but on a different set of frequencies…  but neither of these matters, as you’d have to be sending a lot of constant information to even worry about either fact. 
  • So, how to choose? Perhaps it’s a matter of which products that you’d like to work with?  Amazon’s Echo and related devices use Zigbee, but many of the related alarm companies or lock companies, but not all, use Z-Wave.
  • But after all of this, there’s something more to be added in. Samsung SmartThings hubs, along with many of the other companies, have started to use both major standards.  This crossing over of standards is key, and that’s why it really pays to go with a hub that works on both sides of the aisle. 
  • In the ComputerTalkRadio home automation setup, we are using SmartThings as the main hub, and a mixture of all manner of devices, allowing the best products, regardless of how they communicate.

NEUTRAL WIRING OR DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT STUFF?

  • This week, I’m covering the electrical wiring issue. This is probably one of the most important features that you need to know before you dive into purchasing most automation switches.
  • I’m going to walk you through a simple check for your home in a few minutes, but it starts with this key question… Do you have a neutral wire in your home?
  • In my case, I thought I did. Well, actually, I knew that I did…  but was surprised a few times.
  • Beginners electrical tells us in house wiring, that we have two wires carrying the electricity. We know that the voltage goes in one direction, turns around and goes in the other.
  • Alternating current. Our cars have Direct Current, our homes have Alternating.  60 times a second here in the United States. 
  • I’ve opened up the switch box on the wall, removing the trim panel, removing the switch and I look in, and I see… not two wires the same color, but wow… OK, so there’s a couple of black ones, a white one, a red one, and a copper.
  • Before I continue, this is all a simple explanation over the radio. Colors may vary, you may have other issues, and you may want a professional.  If you are concerned about any part of this, you can hire an electrician to install these in no time at all.  You can even have them resolve the problem (if there is one) in many homes… for a small fee.
  • You just need to determine if you have a neutral wire in the wall before you start ordering a lot of automation items.
  • So, a bunch of wires in the box. The black ones are the easy part…  This is where the electricity rides on the wires normally.  Your home is setup for this.
  • There’s the copper wire, which is your ground. Sometimes this is a green wire.  It’s a safety to keep you from getting shocked.  Electricity must have a destination, and if either of the black wires has a problem, the electricity will look for a new destination.  If you touch the other black wire, the electricity looks for the destination through your body.   ZAPP…  Again, simple version. 
  • That red one in my situation for one of the switch locations, was for a three way switch, where we can turn on the lights at the top of the stairs, or the bottom of the stairs.
  • That Neutral wire is the one we are most interested in, and in my home, it’s white. It’s a path where I can turn off the switch, but it continues to receive a full A/C voltage to power the smart switch inside. 
  • Most companies out there do not have a switch that operates on ZigBee or Z-Wave that will work with just the two black wires and the ground wire. They have to have that circuitry running all of the time, to listen for the commands to turn on and off the light.  This is so very key to the operation. 
  • So, what about the few switches where this is an exception, or where people have these little boxes, or other wall warts where it works? I have a few of these in our system, and manufacturers are setting up electricity to your light, and their control unit in different ways. 
  • The electricity comes into the box, where there is a relay system that turns on and off the light. At the same time, there is electricity going to the small little remote brain.  It’s nice, but it operates a little different way. 
  • The big takeaway here is that you have to have a neutral wire. You can check for yourself, looking for a white wire, or otherwise, call in the electrician.  You need to know this before you continue on your adventure with your own home automation.

THE HUB

  • So, we have to have a smarter hub that controls things if we want a more complex system.
  • I mentioned Samsung SmartThings last week as well, and that’s how we bridge the gaps, and enable control over about 90% of the devices out there, ZigBee or Z-wave.
  • You might be asking why I went with Samsung’s SmartThings? Well, in reality, I went with a number of different options throughout the project, and the hub was just one choice.
  • There are a number of other hubs available, but one thing that came to mind, I wanted everything I talked about to be accessible to the average home user.
  • Let’s address some of the others, so you know what kind of control you might have.
  • HomeSeer was a another great system that could serve as a hub, but I’ll note that while it accommodates one of Marty’s goals, being localized, and not in the cloud, it is a significant investment. They took the idea of creating all of this, but they steer you towards the more expensive version.  It also requires a stand-alone computer, so even if you go with the cheapest at $150, you’re still a few hundred into the computer, or you can get one of the HomeSeer controllers.  There was one bit of good news… this is a route where you can get X10 control, Insteon, and other formats connected. 
  • HAL stands for Home Automated Living. It’s kind of neat, how the computer in 2001 A Space Odyssey was named HAL, but then you start realizing that it was also creepy.  It has voice commands, and is a full hub, but it also requires a computer provided by you.
  • CastleOS was another one that I looked at, but It’s pricepoint was significant. This comes from the fact that it is a small Windows 10 computer, complete with audio, USB ports, and more.  At $450 for one of these, it does have one feature that’s attractive, and that’s how it is also a Set Top Box, or essentially, a device that can provide Netflix, Hulu, and much more. 
  • There are a dozen or so different other solutions that include Arduino computers, and learning Linux, or setting up a dedicated computer to serve your needs, but none seemed to be right.
  • This is a realm where home automation has provided us with so many options, and directions to go in. We can invest time and energy into a lot of do-it-yourself systems, but then we get into the nerdier side.
  • Most people, and when I say most, I even chose the idea of going with an out-of-the-box solution like Samsung’s SmartThings.
  • Yes, it’s cloud. There will be some people who are concerned about cloud usage, and that’s fine.
  • My approach was that I know security, and I setup some very key things in advance to make sure that everything is isolated enough to be safe. I setup long passwords, and a dedicated email account to make it harder for people to get in.
  • I’m not concerned if someone on the Internet is able to turn on and off the lights in my home.
  • My thermostat has a hard control that keeps it from receiving multiple instructions closer than 5 minutes apart, and it also has some encoded constraints to keep it from going too hot or too cold, and I set them aggressively.
  • As we mentioned before, the Samsung SmartThings Hub did provide us with both of the major protocols, a connection to Alexa, and an ease of operation that my wife likes.
  • It also has something that I didn’t know going into it, and that is an extensive set of additional programming, and an option for you to create your own programming, if you are absolutely adventurous.

DETERMINING WHAT IS TO BE CONTROLLED

  • This week, we determine what is to be controlled. Two weeks ago, we introduced a limitation, in that each CONTROLLED wall switch needs to have a neutral wire.  Go to the podcast if you need a refresher on the neutral wire.
  • In my home, one end of the staircase had one, and the other did not. That meant that I needed to rework my expectations of what would turn on or off in my own automation.
  • Now, you need to plan through the house, and select each location that needs automation. You can do this in a few different phases, as I did, and I’d suggest that, as you may find as you start your own project, that some locations aren’t as useful as you had planned.
  • In my case, I started with a few major issues that I wanted to be automated first.
  • We are always having a problem with the patio light being on or off at the wrong time.
  • We are always forgetting and leaving the kitchen light on while we are watching TV.
  • Our staircase has bright lighting, but is also very dark without. So automation, and dimming. 
  • Motion sensor on the stairwell… Yep, I want to make sure that we keep everyone safe.
  • Now from there, we start to build in the other areas which could use a little more help.
  • The master bedroom, the living room lights, the other bedroom and my office area where I record the show each week. Dining room, other outside lights, hall lights, and more.
  • We also have some scene setting light switches from Innovelli. Let’s describe this for a moment.  In my stairwell, I can tap on, and it will simply turn on the chandelier to 100 percent.  If I tap off twice, no matter the previous state, it will turn on or turn down the light…  specifically to 10%.  It’s enough for safety, but not blinding.  Great for those midnight snack runs to the fridge. 
  • Let me take this a step further now… I can use one of these Innovelli switches (and there are other brands handling these as well), to control the other automated items.
  • If I tap the on switch a certain amount of times, I can illuminate the entire home, like an emergency panic button for those things that go bump in the night… Woosh!  Light everywhere.
  • We can also get into more refined solutions like this… I setup a scene where it turns on the patio light, turns off the kitchen, sets a reading light, and dims the stairs.  This scene prepares for an evening of reading a good book, or for some, watching television. 
  • In our setup, we have a few of these scene setting switches, set differently for many functions, but the same for others. The panic setting, where it all turns on… I programmed everywhere.
  • Do you have a lamp on either side of the bed? Front door?  Yes, it helps to have it light as you scramble downstairs to answer the knock.  Office?  I have three lights controlled, the main light switch, a light for more decorative purposes, and a shop light to fill the room. 
  • We also chose door and window sensors, an alarm unit, and motion sensors, which control lights, scenes, our safety, and more. Our needs covered a half dozen windows and doors.
  • Each approach is how you feel it should be, and what comes in handy for you. My wife resisted some of the levels, saying “no, we don’t need that”, but as we added items, she admitted that each was appropriate and functional.  Even the garage door… and we’ll get to that!
  • I can’t tell you what will be important in your home, but we extended automation into the garage, outdoor lighting, and more, allowing for convenience and safety to part of our controls.
  • In your home, you need to plan accordingly. List out each switch, light, appliance, as well as sensor for doors and windows, and rank them according to what you need, what you want, and the nice-to-haves.  Just like life!

THINGS NOT INCLUDED

  • Last week, I broached the topic of planning, of determining where you want your lights, your control, what appliances, and more. This next step is to as about each location a simple question…  Do we need this item controlled?  Does this achieve the overall goal of the home, fit into our lives, our safety, and the concerns that we have for the family?
  • Next week, we’ll talk about security cameras, as that is an entire subject in itself, and it is a distinct part of any automation decisions that one makes, indoor and outdoor.
  • Doorbell cameras have been in the news for a number of reasons in recent months. First was the chilling news that people were buying these $200 doorbell cameras, and then these cameras were being stolen.  Sure, I can access who stole it, but do I recognize them?  Are the police going to chase down a petty thief over a $200 gizmo?  Sure, some have been caught, but that’s rare.
  • More recently, the issues of posting those videos online to catch the package burglars, or the doorbell thieves… is actually a violation of their rights. There’s a whole thing about innocent until proven guilty, and the claim that your posting is a violation of privacy, of the burglars privacy… yes… and that’s creating a legal problem. 
  • Next came news that police stations are starting to issue search warrants to claim the footage of those doorbell cameras to help catch criminals, even though you may not want to be involved.
  • Next, smart locks, and the issue of who has access to the home. A number of people have discussed this with me on both sides of the argument.  Some have expressed the virtue of allowing a guest to have access during certain times.  Sure, but how often would you have someone over when you were not around.  We think about this being a great feature for us to have access…  TO OTHER PEOPLEs homes, an alternative to the key under the mat, but is it safe? 
  • Setting the controls of who has access, when, and for how long, is usually in the cloud. Allowing access to lights in the cloud is one thing, but access to your safety?
  • Further, each smart lock is filled with a number of other concerns. I’ve used a Kevo smartlock deadbolt for a while, but the feature to control it with my smartphone was slower and longer than grabbing out the key.  Even the Bluetooth based key was slow and no faster, and it also still required interaction with the doorknob.  The doorknob version was not motorized, so that made it less of a thrill, and more of a cumberance to safe and reliable entry to the home. 
  • So, what of color lights, smart lightbulbs? I wanted to have a couple of color lights for setting the mood, for sending simple communications, and for the fun aspect, but as I started to think about it… how often would I set the lights to blue… green… red?  The price of a color changing lightbulb, like the Phillips Hue, is about $50. 
  • Worse yet, the actual color precision on most of these bulbs is less than you might think. It’s blue, but can we set it to the blue of the pillows on the couch?  Except we usually want something that’s an unattainable color.  You’re mixing Red Green and Blue to get colors like yellow.  It works…  but not with reliable precision. 
  • Irrigation is another concern, but as I started to look at the building of the automation into the home, I realized that most irrigation systems aren’t designed with the flexibility to deliver the water, shut off the system as you walk across the driveway, and then turn back on.
  • Shades and blinds can be automated, but we also agreed that we open those so infrequently, and imagine going downstairs for a midnight snack, and finding them open. The potential for a problem here is too great for the minimal and occasional convenience. 
  • As you can see, these are faults we found, and decisions we made. Your experience may vary. 

CAMERAS AND PRIVACY

  • Marty Winston’s plans for the Forty Year House are to be cloud free, to keep cameras outside of the home, be independent, and involve more than the home tinkerer is ready for.
  • Marty and I have discussed camera usage, and Julie, my wife, has expressed some deep felt concerns about cameras in the home. As much as I am on the radio, I like having a private life. 
  • Last week, we discussed things that we aren’t including, and doorbell cameras were part of that list, and in part, because of the myriad of problems that are confronting us today with privacy.
  • With a camera, full-time, in your home, or around your home, you are opening a can of worms where these visual images can be captured, stored, shared, used but also misused.
  • I’m following Marty’s concerns, and respecting my wife’s, in this project, we are limiting their usage in our home to outdoors, the garage, and one very public area of our home.
  • The folks from Home8 have been kind enough to help with this, and the garage, and I’ve spent some time planning this carefully.
  • Considerations include what is viewable. Most people would not place a camera into their restrooms, even knowing it was just them.  The bedroom isn’t an ideal place.  Even some people consider the lounging area, where we plop ourselves down in front of the TV to be off-limits.
  • We then look at the need for the camera. Where are your most important items to protect?  Where are you likely to see traffic, especially that of an undesired walk-in or break-in? 
  • Other needs also cover cameras for baby rooms, but that’s a personal decision. Most people would say they want cameras in entry rooms, garages, walkways, and patios.
  • Home8, available at Home8Alarm.com provided some of the hardware within our project, and let me go over a couple of neat things on this. Three cameras… first and foremost is the garage.
  • The Home8 Video Verified Garage Door Control system allows for my wife and I to view the video from anywhere, confirm the door is secure, and correct as needed.
  • Next we add in the Home8 Video Verified Indoor and Outdoor Security Alarm system, which has two more cameras, four sensors (although I think the package may be only two normally), and an indoor camera, and an outdoor one. A keyfob allows for additional control. 
  • We’ve added these sensors from Home8 to key entry points, including the garage. I can call out to the voice system and ask it if the door is open or closed, and then verbally control as needed.
  • Now, you may have noticed I mentioned two cameras, and I’ll note they are in key locations for security. I’m not going into detail, but know that you’re not getting in without being on camera.
  • My wife and I went back and forth on the garage, and finally agreed that it was OK, as well as external areas and entry points, but we realized we were not going to want anywhere else.
  • The Home8 system covers a few key areas and maintains a good level of security. They record, and send to the cloud for a short time.  You can extend it beyond a short period for an additional fee.  You can also get alerts as different items are used, triggered, and more.
  • Motion sensors using the video can track if someone comes on screen, record them, and then turn off recording when motion is gone. This saves on recording space and time reviewing.
  • The installation was easy as could be, and it’s designed for end users. Home8 does have some additional items for people who are concerned about elderly relatives, including medical alert panic buttons, and fall detection systems.  Home 8 is available at Home8Alarm.com
  • Video is important. I won’t dismiss it, and encourage the usage of it.  It requires more advanced thought before implementation. 

SENSORS AND DETECTION

  • Last week, I talked about a sensor in the garage, that allowed me to tell if the door was open.
  • That was accomplished by using a magnet and a magnetic sensor hooked into our system.
  • Don’t you hate getting home later than you expected, and the entire house is dark? When our garage door opens, I’ve programmed the system to turn on a series of lights, some to alert that the door is open, and some to prepare the house for occupants. 
  • Now, as we’ll get into later in this series, you can setup various switches throughout a smarthome to have more impact than just turning on the one light. These sensors / actuators can turn on a single item, or sometimes a series of items, if you’re willing to time to program.
  • Centralite provided us with a some different sensors, including some micro-sensors… and some micro-motion sensors.  We are used to seeing the big ugly things on the wall, but these are amazingly small, and easy to overlook by all but the most observant planning to break-in.
  • It requires a different set of programming for each sensor type, so let’s skim quickly through.
  • If it’s a sensor for key locations, you need to set your hub to tell it you’re home, and then if you open a window, it’ll ignore it. Oh, you’re away… it’s going to set off the alarm, lights, and more.
  • Sensors can detect entry, and alert us to presence of an unwelcome visitor, but can also set programming of all types. Going up the stairs… here’s a little more light.  Opening a drawer full of knives, medicine, or a gun safe, especially in a home with small kids… sends a text message. 
  • Your imagination is your limit. I’ve also prepared additional programming to turn off those lights in case someone is leaving the house.  That was a little trickier, as the system doesn’t always know that I’m leaving.  It just registers doors.  I solved it by giving Alexa a command that says “I’m leaving”.  It then turns off the lights throughout in five minutes, and sets to Away. 
  • Back to the sensors. Compared to competitors, Centralite amazed us with the size on these.
  • The motion sensor is a 1.75 inch square box, and the micro-sensor for the door is even smaller.
  • Both operate with small watch batteries, and are good for ages on these. You can set these anyplace that you can imagine, and let your mind wander as to possibilities. 
  • Each ground floor window and door must be given full consideration for security. This is one of the most costly aspects, but there are many packages which help bring the price down.
  • We have a picture window with openings on each side for which someone could open and fit through. I had to alarm both, and especially the right, as a shadowed location behind shrubs. 
  • We also had a kitchen window location that was on a back patio, which would be hard to get to, but once you’re there, you have some burglar style “me time” to carefully open the window. This location had to be alarmed.  We went through each downstairs spot, determining priority not based upon us entering, but the bad guy entering.  For us, we needed a little more to finish. 
  • Now, we add in the doors, including sliding glass doors. The smaller the magnetic sensor and system, the easier it is to install and prepare.
  • A quick command… “Is the Garage Door open”, “Is the backdoor open”, and each location is easily checked for safety. And sensors don’t stop there.  Centralite provided two water sensors as well… one for under the kitchen sink, and one for the washing machine area.  Don’t overlook these, as their small cost is nothing compared to what they might save.  One home leak for my wife and I in our new home cost us thousands of dollars in repair. 
  • com is where you can get the sensors I mentioned this week, and they have a number of other switches and smart boxes to connect to your own automated house.

DIMMING LIGHTBULBS AND REGULAR LIGHTBULBS

  • Lightbulbs used to be one type. Joseph Swan gave us the lightbulb.  WHOAH… STOP RIGHT THERE.  We’ve all heard about Thomas Edison, but Joseph Swan started working in 1850 with carbon paper filaments in an evacuated glass bulb.  Think carbon, in a slight vacuum, but nothing great, as they lasted 40 hours.  Edison spent years working on improvements, and tweaks to the process of carbon filaments made from bamboo to bring it to 1200 hours.
  • Before long we went to Tungsten filaments, with different gasses, from a simple vacuum, to Argon, Krypton, Xenon, and Halogen. We stuck with those for many years…  how long?
  • While the first fluorescent lamps were on display at the 1939 New York Worlds fair, the color wasn’t pretty. Even by 1995, when the helical shaped CFLs came out, there was much resistance, based on color, concerns about mercury, and more.  In 2016, General Electric announced abandonment of CFLs, and while you can still find them, I don’t recommend them. 
  • So, we have the LED lightbulb. It’s the big choice that we’ve moved towards as they started getting more cost effective.  In 2015, they dropped below that magic $5 a bulb figure that we needed for acceptance, even though the incandescents were far more expensive.
  • In my home, we have mostly LED bulbs, and have for a while. I found as I was moving through the home, that I have a few more incandescents in strange bulb sizes, like 2 different bulbs in two different ceiling fans.  Electricity savings for a comparable bulb are amazing. 
  • Where we saw a dip of about 1/3 to ¼ the wattage usage in a CFL, it’s ugly color was offputting.
  • We use about 1/6th of the wattage in an LED bulb, and there is distinctly less heat.
  • But all of this is about the CTR Home Automation, and approaching our lighting needs carefully.
  • Not all LEDs are dimmable. The older the LED light, the more likely it is that it is not.  You also have to be concerned about trying to dim CFLs that are not dimmable.
  • Dimming the lights used to be simply reducing the voltage, much like turning the spigot on your water faucet. That dial or slide would drop it down with no fuss.  Now, the way that it works, is that you have to supply enough for the LED, but also to drive circuitry that converts the 120 volts down to a lower voltage for the LED.  It’s handled by sending pulses that last milliseconds, and say 10ms off, 5 ms on, and by doing so less light is output through the bulb. 
  • But there can be problems along the way, and how do you know if there are problems?
  • Most likely, flickering, or pulsing. One multi-bulb light had the lights going at odd flickers, so it was like strobe lights at a concert.  This is most common in non-dimmable lamps.  Irregular dimming is also a sign, but also having bulbs not working, or if you are slowly adjusting, and there’s what we call dead-travel, where the switch moves a portion and the bulb doesn’t react.
  • If you are mixing and matching types of bulbs, this can be a big problem with a dimmer. Upgrade them all to the dimmable LEDs.  Problems with different models of LED bulb, too…
  • Most of the dimmer packs that I’ve seen for the home automation are fully supportive of LED lights, but I’d like for you to do your homework.
  • My best suggestion is to plan ahead on your project. Get a pack of dimmable LED’s and have them on hand when you’re moving about.  This is a pricey project overall for most home automation, with the light switches running $30 or so.  The cost per bulb these days little more than $2 each, so is relatively low in comparison to the dimmer packs, so just upgrade throughout your project. 
  • If you need to mix and match, or if you have problems, you may need to convert back to the standard on-off switch.

THERMOSTATS AND LIVING CONDITIONS

  • One driving factor in home automation, at least this route, is if you wish to have it control your heating and cooling. It’s a tricky subject for some, as there are concerns about allowing the home to get too hot or too cold.  Is there a knowledge point for if you are home or not?  What about hackers getting involved with burning your house down, or freezing pipes?
  • So, we had already placed in a fancy thermostat a few years ago, and it was serving us well, but while it was high-tech, it wasn’t going to loop into any of our existing systems for automation.
  • Lux Products (easy website, Lux Products.com) has a nice unit called the Kono. Before I dive in, I’ll note that this is a very nice looking unit, designed with some of the design characteristics of modern thermostats, but then they take this and ratchet it up a notch. 
  • From the tech side, it’s basic numbers and symbols, viewable from across the room, but not so obtrusive to distract. The previous thermostat would go to full bright when it changed temperature profiles or as people walked by (being next to our tv, a distraction)…  Lux fixed that
  • This Kono Smart thermostat adds in more, hwoever, in that they have changeable décor snapon covers, in a wide variety of colors. Also, you can paint the cover to match your existing décor. 
  • In our case, I found a nice tone that compliments both the paint schema that we used in the living room, and also the design element of the Kono Smart thermostat. I had not considered how important the looks of a thermostat could be, but it now fits seamlessly on the wall.
  • This is a tech show, so let’s cover the tech side. Installation was a breeze, because I have a C-Wire.  If you don’t have a C-wire, there is a power bridge available, or your HVAC pro can assist with it.  I had it installed in under 20 minutes, and it was ready to connect to wifi and more.
  • The smart installation was a matter of loading a smartphone app, and pointing the smartphone camera at a 3D barcode, where it had all of the info to connect, and it configured my phone.
  • After another 10 minutes, I had it all installed, configured, and was ready to tinker.
  • I should mention that the Lux Products Kono thermostat does have compatibility across the spectrum with Alexa and Google, as well as Apple Homekit.
  • It does have a geofencing feature for effortless savings, so it can tell when people are home or away, to increase the comfort.  The heating and cooling range is very nice, and while I initially wanted it to be a little more exacting, I found that I could set a good temperature, and it saved quite a bit of money by being more flexible than before.  If I want it precise, I can hold at a temperature, and it will solidly keep the temperature there, great for parties and guests.
  • The Lux app has a Runtime calendar, so I can see when it’s been running over the past however many days, heating and cooling, and the temperature at the time. It’s a great tracking of how much or how little usage my thermostat is getting. 
  • Protection features against the bad guys are smart and easy. There’s a limitation to the highs and lows that’s built-in, and you can make that more controlled.  You also can’t adjust settings more often than every five minutes.  There is knowledge if you are home or not, with the geofencing feature, but this is going to exist anyway.  I think it’s acceptable, as most people won’t know all of the details to get to it. 
  • It’s not something that everyone thinks about, but the voice commands to adjust the temperature, and the various automations to save money, they all add up to a very nice experience within the project.
  • Lux Products.com, and it’s Kono, they have another one called Geo, but the Kono is so nice looking… it’s worth a few more dollars.

REVIEWING THE WHYS OF AUTOMATION

  • We are a bit over half-way through this special series on a beginners level of home automation, and while we’ve done a lot with it, I wanted to stop, refocus for a few people to explain the why
  • If you recall, I started by noting my nerd fascination of automating things. In part because when  my grandparents passed away 17 years ago within just a short time of each other, I needed to protect their home.  It needed to look like it was lived in, at least nominally, to prevent any burglars from breaking in.  That meant that I had to automate some lighting.
  • Yes, there was an additional aspect of my wife having envy of her sister who had a few automated lights in key areas, and color too, and while we didn’t go with color, we did far more.
  • At that time, I also found that Alexa was reported in 25% of homes, with 75 million devices across the country. That’s an amazing level, considering they did that in 3 years. 
  • But those are my reasons. What are other reasons that you need to be aware of?
  • Energy Efficiencies are driving me to think more about this entire setup. Last week, I noted that I believe the thermostat is running our heating and A/C less than the previous one, and I think this is saving us a good deal of money, even though our temperatures were nearly the same.
  • Extend that to lights. I can turn off lights throughout the house, and we are using commands to shutdown things more frequently.  A verbal command, and we can set lighting for the setting, instead of leaving lights on.  Say “Movie time”, and I turn off most lights, and dim a couple more. 
  • This scene saves on all unnecessary lighting, sets a comfortable mood, and saves a lot!
  • Minimal lights come on at dusk, and we don’t have to leave lights on in certain areas of the house when we leave… why? Because the automation turns them on for us when we get home. 
  • As we add more automation, we are increasing benefits of this, creating a cumulative cost savings across the home that are great. A recent study found that the average household electric bill was about $3000.  An investment in the thermostats, sensors, sprinklers, lights, and all, a comprehensive smart home system, could save hundreds of dollars a year…  But your experience will vary, depending on how you use this. 
  • Now, there is a payoff time period for this, but it will all come from how you use your system, intent, changes in your power usage, and more. Estimates place it around 15% savings.  15% of $3000 is $450.  That’s the Kono thermostat, and 8 switches, and a couple sensors, for an ROI of one year.  That’s about my halfway point in the installation.  So 2 years, but then…  my next one
  • Convenience is so key in our lives. I didn’t think it was that important, but when I had a recent injury, I found it so nice to just call out and turn off some lights instead of getting up.  Forget to turn off the kitchen light, no bother.  Want to turn on the porch light for an unknown visitor while quickly getting presentable and putting on shoes?  It’s so much faster and easier, and polite as well.  This is an ability to control the key items in your home without effort.
  • Dim stairs in the dark of night, instead of walking down in the dark. Night lights from normal?
  • Forget to close the garage door?   Coming home late, but you want to look like you’re home… Remote.  Sure, some may even choose the smart locks, or video doorbells…. It’s your decision there, but it adds convenience.
  • The last item, is your own personal security. This is something that comes in many forms, like a codeword to light up every part of the house.  ECHO POWER UP… not my keyword, but you have the idea…  BOOM!  It’s all lit… every switch, every light, everything you can imagine.  Scares the burglar off as fast as grandpa racking a round into the shotgun.  Open a door at the wrong time?  LIGHTS EVERYWHERE…  Window opens on a cold winters night…  You’ll see it all.

SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED AND PROGRAMMING TOO

  • Off and on, I’ve been calling this our Beginners Home Automation, to set it apart from what Marty’s been doing. This is where I’m going to start noting that it’s also not easy.
  • This is not for the faint of heart. I’m not out to scare you, but you need to know whats ahead.
  • Screwdrivers, electrical panels, wiring, planning, discussions, and even some programming.
  • Screwdrivers first. You know this, and sure there are many areas where we can use items that plug into the wall sockets.  Marty calls these wall warts, and if exposed are an issue.  Where hidden away, it’s not so bad.  We wound up with 6 in unexposed spots, and 1 exposed. 
  • Accessing your electrical fuse panel freaks people out for some reason. Yes, it’s uglier if there’s missing breakers, or you’re standing in water, or if you’ve got the old screw-in fuses.  If you have any of these issues, call a contractor and upgrade to the breakers.  You may need some additional wiring, or special items like Innovelli’s new lightswitch that doesn’t need a neutral. 
  • We went through some of the Neutral wiring in the past, but that brings up the next hesitation for most people in the form of that shere’s loads of wires in different colors. They won’t always be the same as what’s in the diagrams, but an electrician can handle most of your installs quickly, or at least explain the wiring situation.  Yes, you may want to upgrade wiring, but that might not be a bad solution in most homes.
  • Now there’s loads of planning, discussions, and more. In a major project, like this, you’ll want to sit down, and plan out your entire home carefully.  We mentioned this before, with the “where do you absolutely need control, want control, like control”, and you have to be flexible. 
  • For my wife, flexibility proved to be a challenge as much as some of the other aspects. We discussed how different switches would operate different things, and some would operate many different things.  I’ve covered how we have scenes setup.  For instance, in the kitchen, one up turns on the kitchen, two up adds in the dining room, and three up adds in the living room lights as well to brighten up our entire downstairs.  It wasn’t originally like that… discussion.
  • Each time the project changes, there’s new considerations as we work to be flexible, but understandable.
  • Programming rounds out the most difficult and scary part for most people. Many of the items have required some level of basic programming.  Nothing like coding, where you have to know various computer languages, but basic workflows.
  • If this sensor is activated during the day, do nothing. If this sensor is activated at night, turn on these lights.  Turn on these lights at dusk.  Turn off these lights at dawn.  One sequence is setup with Alexa, and is complex.  Alexa, I’m going upstairs (not actual command) will set off a chain of events that lasts a minute.  It turns on the stairs and an outside light we leave on all night, turns off the kitchen and dining room, then waits a 15 seconds… one light goes out and another one dims.  It counts down as it slowly turns off the entire downstairs, and then stairs themselves. 
  • It ensures everything is out and saves money. Every home will be different, but we have the power to do so much more.  Our command list is about 20 long, with a couple more complex.
  • You will need to mix in some thought into the workflows, and sometimes you’ll be on Samsungs website, choosing a different switch option because it detected X instead of Y. Innovelli’s scene switches were not originally in the Samsungs settings, and are also very complex, so I downloaded the new software and installed that via the Samsung website.
  • Yes, this is scary, requires some work, and can be cumbersome. Can the average person do it?    I don’t think I’ve come across anything yet that couldn’t be solved by most people who can get up the nerve to use the screwdriver and open up the electrical panel. 

GARAGE

APOLOGIES FOR LIMITED NOTES. A FEW TIMES I HAD TO WING IT!

• Originally, I had grand designs for the garage.
• Lack of neutral wiring in multiple switches and light sockets
• Inovelli had some outdoor plugin modules that I used.
• Other wall wart type wall sockets OK, but not as rugged.
• Garage, inhospitable.
• Home8 also provided sensors but we liked those for inside the house.
• Centralite sensor worked better for the mounting needs on the garage door.
• Amazon is the garage door open? Garage door is closed.
• Home8 Garage door opener
• Alexa – trigger garage door
• IFTTT
• Garage camera

REMOTES, IPHONES, AND ACTIVATING SCENES

  • You may be skittish about allowing remote access. There’s a lot to be concerned about as we learn of things like the Nest hack, the various other manipulations of different bits and pieces of your home automation like thermostats and sprinklers. 
  • Thermostat manufacturers have started getting wise to their vulnerabilities. Lux, for instance, has locked things down so that you have hard maximum temperatures, and soft ones as well… meaning they won’t go into crazy ranges, and you can constrain further and should.
  • They also restrict how often things can change. Now that has messed me up once, where I made a bad temperature move, and it made me wait a few minutes before it registered the new change, but that wasn’t unbearable.
  • Sprinklers could cause flooding, but frankly, if you’ve got flooding issues from the automation, you’ve got flooding issues period. We are in a desert area, so our sprinklers are not automated.
  • There used to be the concern about too many lights and eating up your electric bill. With LED lightbulbs, you’ve eliminated not only the energy but also much of the heat dangers.
  • Next we start to think about the things like the remote access. The webpages, the smartphones and more.  I stick with my age old tried and true of using unique and strong passwords.
  • Now, I’m a proponent of being secure, but frankly, there are few dangers. The exciting things that we gain will far outweigh the few minor items that could be scary.
  • When I arrive home, or my wife, the house knows who is entering into the zone. We can then start programming things based on our personal preferences.  We can turn on specific lights for either of us, and set things going to enable our own design of what comfort is. 
  • Remote access to close the garage is also an amazing item, and we’ve used it multiple times, or at least checking to make sure that the garage door is open or closed. We’ve only had a couple  occasions where that was forgotten for us, and none since the automation, but it’s of concern.
  • Imagine driving down the road, and I ask my wife to check if the garage is open. She can check, and close the garage as needed.  She can also look over all of the other details to the house, and make sure that all of the lights are off.  We can also check on cameras mounted in specific locations, and it’s also a secure system.  Home8 requires an invite to access the system, and that’s to keep us locked down.
  • Additional features start kicking in here, like alerts when a sensor has been in a certain state, like the moisture sensors, for too long. I mentioned the garage, well, I can tell if the garage has been left open for longer than 10 minutes.  It’s via the app, and a text message. 
  • This type of alerting applies to so many things in the system as well. Now, I will admit that we’re juggling a few different options along the way.  Some items work better with Alexa, and some work better with Samsung.  Home8 works with If This Then That, or IFTTT.com, and you have to plan each section of recording accordingly, or things will get squirrely.
  • For instance, I did setup some automation to turn on some lights when a door opened. Unfortunately, I set it into two different areas, so the lights would come on, and then go right out again.  Proper planning for each element in your setup is necessary.
  • I went into this, so very concerned about what might be “in the cloud”. My wife, even moreso.  As we progressed down this road, we realized that the value to the hackers, at every turn was diminished or completely removed.  In many cases, a little forethought is required to secure.  In other cases, the manufacturer has stepped in ahead of us. 

LIGHT SWITCHES

APOLOGIES FOR LIMITED NOTES. A FEW TIMES I HAD TO WING IT!

  • Light switches are a key element, and we ran into a number of issues along the way. I don’t want to scare you off, but merely make you aware that things do happen.
  • Most are in the decorator category
  • Plain Toggle versus Dimmer
    • Talked about the dimming LED bulbs
  • Scene switches
    • Setup multiple sets of programming, based on how you tap a sequence into lights
    • Many switches can also activate multiple lights, via Samsungs Smartthings
  • Three-way switch problems on the stairs.
    • Red wire as traveler wire
  • Problems with wiring in an old house
  • New switches, with Remotes as an option for hard to wire locations… like the Wallmote from Aeotec.
  • Can’t control remote bulbs easily like this…
    • Belong in dedicated fixtures with no on-off switch
  • Wiring is tricky. Even after doing it multiple times, this past week, I installed a switch with the load and electrical feed backwards.  On a normal switch it doesn’t matter

 

ADDITIONAL COMPANY IN THE MIX - AEOTEC

    • There was my “Goodnight” setup which turned off most of the home, set up a night mode and prepared me for bed. There’s a movietime scene, and items controlling the garage.
    • Everyone hates entering the house when it’s dark. Entering the house will turn on appropriate lights… front, garage, back…  and that’s absolutely handy. 
    • In the evening, at dusk, we turn on the porch lights, and at dawn, they go off.
    • There are many things that I could have setup with automation in this project. Some directions that I haven’t done yet, but am thinking about include some cool setups. 
    • Sunrise wakeup with lighting… and this would include slowly brightening the room, adding music, and perhaps a news highlights.
    • Geofencing is setup on our thermostat, but we haven’t leveraged the idea yet to setup temperature, lighting, and other features to welcome us home. Or perhaps detecting that everyone has left the area, so turning off lights.  We may address that someday.
    • This could also be leveraged for turning on alarm settings, reducing thermostat usage, etc.
    • We mentioned shutters last week, and that includes things like drapes and blinds, and frankly, anything can be driven like this. We’ve seen it in the movies and on TV, but automated blinds controlled by your voice would be an awesome topic at your next house party.
    • Turning off lights based off of time, or setting lights for specific patterns… 

IDEAS WORTH CONSIDERING

  • The home automation so far has been wonderful. I have been excited about the improvements, the changes, and the evolution of this from a few features to many parts of the home.
  • There was my “Goodnight” setup which turned off most of the home, set up a night mode and prepared me for bed. There’s a movietime scene, and items controlling the garage.
  • Everyone hates entering the house when it’s dark. Entering the house will turn on appropriate lights… front, garage, back…  and that’s absolutely handy. 
  • In the evening, at dusk, we turn on the porch lights, and at dawn, they go off.
  • There are many things that I could have setup with automation in this project. Some directions that I haven’t done yet, but am thinking about include some cool setups. 
  • Sunrise wakeup with lighting… and this would include slowly brightening the room, adding music, and perhaps a news highlights.
  • Geofencing is setup on our thermostat, but we haven’t leveraged the idea yet to setup temperature, lighting, and other features to welcome us home. Or perhaps detecting that everyone has left the area, so turning off lights.  We may address that someday.
  • This could also be leveraged for turning on alarm settings, reducing thermostat usage, etc.
  • We mentioned shutters last week, and that includes things like drapes and blinds, and frankly, anything can be driven like this. We’ve seen it in the movies and on TV, but automated blinds controlled by your voice would be an awesome topic at your next house party.
  • Turning off lights based off of time, or setting lights for specific patterns… for instance, as the evening wears down, setting up dimmer lights to induce our own body clocks to settle down.
  • One neat option that we don’t have, based on the fact that we don’t have a connected fire alarm, is to turn on all of the lights when it detects a hazard. Those precious minutes count, but also imagine your house lighting up fully based on any of the alarm options, drawing attention to your home and the problems occurring!
  • I have a color light now, and am considering a few options, like letting me know when I have email, letting my wife know when I’m recording, and more.
  • Come holiday time, setting up the tree and outdoor lights will be easier. Some homes might go an extra mile and setup the actual color patterns via the automation, and we’ve seen houses do that on YouTube, but they are usually using something a little different and more amazing.
  • We could setup for vacation times and making the house look lived in. This can range from lights, to music, and if we went an extra mile, setting up the TV as well. 
  • I did setup TV lighting scenes, but imagine a connected remote which turned the TV on or off, and changed channels, giving the lived in look, but also when you are home, you could pause a movie, and the action of hitting pause on the TV remote could turn on all of the lights.
  • The power switch for certain items not normally controlled is a possibility as well. I used a heavy duty wall wart with the 3D printer, as the power switch is in a strange spot.  We can extend this to other areas to control further.  What do you have that needs an easier power switch?
  • Motion sensors can turn on lights, like as you are going up the stairs, or entering a room.
  • Control the kids as well, with reminders, controls over TV or Internet access, and more.
  • Imagination is the only limitation here.

SERIES WRAP-UP

  • Late last year, I started this Home Automation Project. Earlier this year, I started recording it.
  • This was not a simple project, but neither was it filled with difficult tasks. Along the way, it was addressing some minor issues in instructions, developing my own ideas as to perfect control over a home, and leveraging knowledge from people who had insight to the road before me.
  • We covered so many things and I want to encourage you go online and check my notes, or download the super podcast audio from Computer Talk Radio.com… The notes are usually fairly close to what I covered, and will give you an insight into how I prepare for my show.
  • The audio is being labelled as the Beginners Home Automation Project in the podcast, and it is right in the feed next to the rest of the podcast audio, so you can always catch the show.
  • We spent a lot of time putting this together, and I can’t thank the different folks who helped by providing equipment to get to this point.
  • Inovelli provided a large number of amazing switches, and brainpower on more complex items.
  • Home8 provided some cameras and insight into alarms and more.
  • The Lux thermostat is amazing, and they are just a few minutes away from where I live.
  • Aeotec also provided some very unique items, some of which are still being installed.
  • Each of these companies brings a certain talent to the game, a focus on different items that will help make your home automation work.
  • One other company went the extra mile and assisted me a lot, but unfortunately, Centralite, which had been in the business for a long time, was suffering and filed Chapter 11 recently.
  • The Samsung Smartthings hub, the Amazon Alexa, and a few extra bits came out of my own pocket, which is always a hazard when you embark on a large project.
  • Lessons learned have been covered along the way many times. Add to them to turn off the circuit breaker first, but I never did zap myself.  Have the right tools on hand, and be prepared to be surprised upon entering your home wiring.  I was thrown a few times along this journey.
  • If you’re planning on home automation, I cannot stress enough the impact of planning, but also adapting. I ran into a number of traps that I couldn’t have planned for, but had I not planned, this would have frustrated me beyond belief.  It was spreadsheets and notes, allowing extra time for each installation, and being willing to go back to the drawing board many times. 
  • I originally thought I’d have to select ZigBee or Z-wave, but was pleasantly surprised when I found that I didn’t need to settle for just one.
  • Voice commands are usually good, but you have to remember to plan for command names to be changed to be easier to remember or teach to guests.
  • Some of the impressions that I had going into this were grand, but I think we met all of them.
  • Regrets here don’t exist, and for a project this size, I’m surprised. My wife was a resistor to some of the automation, but eventually embraced each of components along the way, and gave me plenty of insight into better ways to do things.  That’s what spouses are for, I guess.
  • In closing of the Home Automation project, I want to encourage you to look into this. The convenience of opening a door and having the house light up to welcome you are grand when your arms are full.  The ability to make sure the house is buttoned up at night can settle your mind.  The ability to reduce power usage is great. 
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